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September 12, 2013
State Education Leaders Reflect on Changing Scores
Percent of students meeting standard declines but average scores hold steady
(Salem, Ore.) – Today, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton released the statewide test results for reading, writing, math, and science for the 2012-13 school year. Last year’s results paint a more complex picture of student achievement in our state. The percent of students meeting state standard declined except in high school reading and math; however, students’ average test score – often considered a more accurate measure of student learning – remained relatively flat.
“If you simply look at the percent of students meeting state standards, most of these results are discouraging,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “However, I hope that people will look beyond the percentage to the learning behind it. Test results and percent met should never be our end goal. That end goal needs to be student learning – and ultimately students graduating high school college and career ready. And student learning as reflected by average scores generally held steady this last year. With our federal flexibility waiver, we moved away from the punitive system that incentivized over-testing and an instructional focus on the students who were closest to meeting standard. We are now testing kids less and focusing instead on student learning and growth. I believe these changes are in the best interest of kids, but they have impacted the way we have long measured educational success in our state. I hope this year’s results will spark deeper conversations about how to best gauge student learning and growth and how to fairly and accurately assess the success of our educational system.”
2012-13 Results at a Glance
There are several changes that took effect during the 2012-13 school year that may have impacted the drop in the percent of students meeting state standard. Changes to state testing policies reduced testing opportunities at grades 3-8 for reading and math. In the past, students could take state reading and math tests up to three times per year. In an attempt to limit over-testing, the number of testing opportunities was reduced to two this past school year. In addition, Oregon’s federal flexibility waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly No Child Left Behind) shifted the focus from the percent of students getting over a certain bar back to overall student learning and growth. This reduced the incentive to focus retesting efforts on those students closest to meeting standard and instead focus on intensified instruction and support for all students.
“The shift in testing practice moves our state toward a clearer, more accurate picture of student knowledge and skills,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “But this is just the beginning. With the adoption of the Common Core and the move to the new Smarter Balanced assessment, we will truly start to see how prepared our students are for their futures. Just as this year’s drop in percent met generally does not represent a true drop in performance, the larger drop we anticipate when students are tested on our new higher standards will not indicate that our students are learning less – it will simply provide a more accurate picture of how prepared students are to successfully transition from grade to grade and ultimately graduate ready for college-level work and family-wage jobs.”
This school year, students across Oregon will receive instruction aligned to the new Common Core State Standards. Around 20% of students will participate in a field test of the new Smarter Balanced assessment this spring, with full implementation of the test scheduled for the spring of 2015.
The Results: 2012-13 Oregon Assessment Results
Below are the percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards on the 2011-12 and 2012-13 state tests for reading, math, science, and writing (rounded to the nearest whole number) as well as the average score by grade. Click here to access a table of test results by student subgroup or access data by school and district on the ODE website.
A Closer Look at Writing
Most of the drops in this year’s results are small; however, we did see a significant decrease in the percentage of students meeting the state’s high school writing target. While it is not yet clear why this large drop occurred, recent budget reductions did impact when, and how frequently, students could take the writing test. In the past, writing was assessed in 4th and 7th grade and at least once in high school. Starting two years ago, the 4th and 7th grade assessments were eliminated due to budget constraints and the high school test was limited to one opportunity in the 11th grade year. The juniors who took the test in 2011-12 would have had the opportunity to take the test as either 9th or 10th graders and many of them did. However, this last year’s juniors would not have had the option to take the test in the 10th grade. For most students, they had just one shot in the 11th grade at demonstrating their proficiency on the state high school writing test.
“I am deeply concerned by the drop in this year’s writing results,” said Deputy Superintendent Saxton. “And I am committed to learning more about why this drop occurred and what changes in our system or our supports to kids may have impacted these results. Writing is one of the most critical skills our students need to master for success in college and the workplace. We need to redouble our efforts on writing and turn these results around in the coming years.”
Another factor that can’t be ignored in this year’s results is the impact of funding. This past session, the Oregon Legislature made an historic investment in schools including funding four Strategic Initiatives to improve student opportunities and outcomes. However, none of that funding was in place for the 2012-13 school year.
“We have historically underfunded our education system at every level,” said Interim Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden. “For years, we have asked our schools to do more with less – to improve student outcomes despite shortened school years, aging text books, and increasing class sizes. While I don’t believe that funding is the answer to all of our problems, the quality and quantity of instruction we are able to provide to our students is directly impacted by the investment we are willing to make – an investment that is both targeted and based on demonstrated outcomes. And this year, we are starting to make that investment. We have identified key leverage areas where we believe we can really catalyze significant change. We are investing in early literacy, in creating a college-going culture in our schools, and in connecting students to the world of work through science, technology, engineering, and math. And maybe most importantly, we are investing in our teachers through increased training, mentoring, support, and professional development. None of these programs had the opportunity to make a difference in last year’s achievement metrics. But I firmly believe that they will impact the results – and more importantly the learning – of students in the years to come.”
This year, Oregon districts will be receiving additional resources through the Legislatively funded Strategic Initiatives. A total of $72 million has been allocated and over 50% of these funds will be distributed to schools and districts around the state this year. Click here to learn more about the Strategic Investments.
Oregon’s Testing System
Under Oregon’s assessment system, state reading and math tests are given at grades 3-8 and high school. State science tests are taken in grades 5, 8, and high school. Writing is currently only tested once in high school. Last year, we delivered over 1.2 million tests through the states’ computer-based testing system, OAKS Online (OAKS = Oregon Assessment of Knowledge & Skills). This is down from 1.4 million tests administered in the 2011-12 school year. Oregon’s assessments are online and adaptive meaning that each student’s test is unique and adapts to the level of difficulty most appropriate for that student. Oregon will move to the new Smarter Balanced assessment in the 2014-15 school year. Smarter Balanced will also be online and adaptive but will be a more authentic assessment of student learning as it includes more short answer and interactive elements with less of a focus on multiple choice items.
For an audio clip of Deputy Superintendent Saxton, go to: http://video.orvsd.org/ode/130905_002.MP3
For an FAQ on Assessment Results, go to: http://www.ode.state.or.us/wma/superintendent/release/2012-13-assessment-faq.pdf
For Assessment Results by district and school, go to: http://www.ode.state.or.us/apps/BulkDownload/BulkDownload.Web/
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